Are you interested in learning more about the Law Office of Bryan Fagan? One of the most important pieces of information that we want to pass along to you is that our attorneys and staff value our clients and want to do the most possible to help our community. It's as simple as that. Do right by our clients and serve the people in our community. In everything, we do as a law office that is our mission. Keeping this mission in mind allows us to maintain a level head when cases or circumstances become complicated.
As you begin to look for assistance in the area of child custody or divorce, we invite you to take a step back and assess what you are looking for in a lawyer. If this is your first time working with an attorney in a legal matter then certainly we understand that the learning curve can be significant depending upon your knowledge of the law and family law in particular. You likely have your own work-life, family, and interests independent of the legal case that you are about to take on. With that said, hiring an attorney can provide you with some peace of mind in knowing that you have an advocate on your side who can step up and perform the procedural work on your case while guiding so you can make important decisions on the important subject matter related to your children and your property.
To be able to move forward confidently in your case, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to help you walk through a Sample Agreement. This Sample Agreement is an example of a template that may look very similar to what you and your co-parent end up agreeing to in your family law case. Or, your orders may look completely different. That is an important lesson regarding the world of Texas family law- the circumstances of your case are unique to you, your co-parent, and your children. It is not enough to copy and paste another person's orders into your own a call it a day. That would be like taking a square peg and trying to hammer it into a round hole. Try as you might it just won't work. If you get it in there either the hole or the peg is going to get bent.
With that said, let’s take some time to walk through the Sample Agreement. If you have never seen child custody, conservatorship, or possession orders before then allow this to be a learning experience for you. As much as an attorney with our office can assist you with your case, it is also a good lesson for you to be able to learn how to read and decipher language like you will see in this Sample Agreement. The reason being is that you are responsible for understanding the language of your order so that you may follow it to the letter.
This section of a final decree of divorce or child kind of city order that relates to possession, access, and child support in the overall relationship that you and your Co-parent will have with your child after your divorce or child custody case known as the parenting plan. We will walk through the different areas of the parenting plan today. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these concepts so that you can be confident and knowledgeable about each as you begin your family law case. Bear in mind, however, that this sample agreement they generalized document in that your specific circumstances may require negotiations on subjects that are not included in the document that you were looking at currently.
while many parents who are going through a child custody or divorce case concern themselves primarily with if she's related to possession and visitation of their children, I think that conservatorships is pound for pound the most important area of your family law case. Conservatorships takes into account the specific circumstances of you and your children in addition to your Co-parent and lays out the agreements regarding how rights and duties related to your children will be divided between you and your Co-parent.
To begin with, in the sample agreement the two parents are named as joint managing conservators of the child. This means that the two hypothetical parents will be sharing in the decision-making on behalf of the child. In most Texas family law cases, parents are named as joint managing conservators. This reflects the reality that courts believe it to be in the best interests of children for both parents to be able to develop a close and continuing relationship with the child. This does not necessarily mean that rights and duties are shared equally on all subjects between parents. However, if you are name is a joint managing conservator then you can expect to hold many significant rights and duties over your child.
Rights and duties can be held mutually, exclusively, or independently of your child. Looking at this sample agreement you will notice that the key exclusive right to do anything on behalf of the child is held by the mother who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child within Harris County Texas. This tells you that the mother was named as the primary conservator of the child. as such, the children will live with the mother throughout the school year in the mother has the right to also receive child support.
Finally, the fact that the primary residence of the children must be within Harris County tells you that there is a geographic restriction in place. While a court does not have jurisdiction to restrict a parent’s residents, it does have the ability and jurisdiction to restrict a child's residence to a certain geographic area. In this sample agreement provided to you by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, the parties agreed to a geographic restriction where the child was to live only in Harris County.
Possession and access under a standard possession order
The most agreed to form of dividing time during the year for a child between parents is a standard possession order. The standard possession order is codified within the Texas family code and is an option 4 families to take advantage of when it comes to working out a post-divorce or child custody possession schedule for their children. Note that you and your Co-parent can negotiate upon any variation you would like when it comes to a senior position order or utilize a position order that the two of you create. The bottom line is that a court would look to the best interests of your children when determining whether to grant your request for a possession order.
The hallmarks of a standard possession order are our first, 3rd, and 5th-weekend possession for the non-primary conservator. In the sample agreement provided to you by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, the father is the non-primary conservator. He has first come third and 5th weekend of the month visitation during the school year as well as possession on a Thursday night from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM each week. This allows the father to pick the child up and take him or her for a quick dinner or other activity as the situation calls for it.
School year visitation for a non-primary conservator under standard possession order tends to be lopsided in favor of the primary conservator. This is to make it easier for the child to be able to focus on their school and less on the logistics concerning going back and forth between the homes of his or her parents. However, the father in this sample agreement will be able to make up for this disparity in time during holidays and the summer. Holiday possession during the year is, for the most part, divided equally between parents. Depending on whether it is an even or odd-numbered year, parents will have an alternate holiday possession scheduled than what they had the prior year. The key to this is that longer holidays like Christmas are divided into halves and Thanksgiving is alternated depending on whether it is an even or odd year.
Summertime visitation functions similarly to school year visitation with the exception that the father will have an extended period of possession of the child for 30 days so long as he provides notice to the mother by April 1st of that. He will be choosing to take advantage of. Frequently this extended period of possession takes place in July. You will also be able to see that the mother of the child can designate one-weekend possession of her own during the father's contiguous 30 days of possession. However, she must provide notice to the father by April 15th of this weekend to be able to take advantage of it.
The distance that you and your co-parent live from one another will determine a great deal when it comes to your visitation and possession schedule that you can maintain with your children. If you all choose to live close together it can minimize travel time and costs thus leaving more time for activities and spending time together in a non-rushed environment. I think we can all agree that leading hectic lives does not always make it easy to engage in quality time with our families.
If you and your co-parent live within 100 miles of one another then a separate set of possession "rules" apply to your parenting plan. A Standard Possession Order is only manageable if you live within 100 miles of your child as the non-primary conservator. Living in another city while your children work in Houston is not ideal, but it may be your reality. In that case, you should prepare yourself for less frequent visitation and possession with your children- at least during the school year. This reflects the difficulty of traveling long distances to see your children as well as the best interests of the children being able to focus on school.
Closing thoughts on possession, custody, and co-parenting
As the non-primary parent, the father in this Sample Agreement has the responsibility to drop off and pick up the child at the mother’s residence. That is standard in most possession schedules. If you do not want this to be the case, you may negotiate for that. Some parents trade off transportation responsibilities, meet in the middle of their residences, or even have the primary conservator perform the transportation if need be. In extreme cases, custody exchanges can occur at police stations if there have been issues in the past regarding violence or other erratic behavior by parents in these situations.
One of the more minor issues that frequently grows in importance during a post-divorce or post-child custody world is that of making sure that your child returns home with all his or her belongings after a period of possession with your co-parent. These would be things like jackets in the winter, swimsuits in the summer, and toys year-round. You may want to text your co-parent before a period of possession ends to make sure that the items come home with your children. Repeating things to your children about remembering an item probably won't work too well. As a father of four kids, I know this from a great deal of experience.
Suppose that you are running late from work to pick up the kids on a Friday afternoon. Your boss called in and told you that you needed to stay late to help a co-worker who has a deadline coming up. Or your flight to Houston ran late and you won't be home until later that evening. What can you do? The Sample Agreement contains a common provision that allows you and your co-parent to both designate a competent adult to perform the pickup and drop off of your child. You need to designate this person beforehand so that your co-parent knows what to expect.
Finally, this Sample Agreement contains a couple of "Golden Rule" provisions. The Golden Rule is to do unto others what others would do unto you. Meaning- act towards other people the way that you want others to act unto you. This means that if you find out that your brother fell and broke his leg in Arizona and that you need to go out there to take care of him, then you need to contact your co-parent if this means that you are going to need to miss that weekend's possession period. Do not wait until the last minute. Your co-parent may need to make plans to be available to spend the weekend with your children.
Next, you need to update your co-parent if your email address changes or if any of your contact information is different from month to month. What you don’t want to do is to put yourself in a situation where your co-parent has been trying to get a hold of you but cannot do so due to a problem with an old phone number or email address. The Sample Agreement requires you to update your co-parent with this information within 24 hours of getting the new phone number or email address. Do not push the limits on little things like this. If your co-parent can believe that you are trustworthy with the small things, you two can begin to trust one another with more substantial items.
What you will find by looking through this Sample Agreement is that it is a clear-cut, down-the-middle parenting plan. Your divorce or child custody case orders may look a lot like this Agreement. However, you and your co-parent can determine your course of action for yourselves by working together to come up with solutions that are best suited for your family. Remember that you are negotiating an order that is in the best interests of your child. What is in their best interests may not be in your best interests or that of your co-parent. This can be a difficult lesson to soak in but it should be the guiding principle in your case.
I cannot emphasize how important it can be to your case to have an experienced family law attorney helping you. Help in this context means advocacy in a courtroom but also skill in preparation for mediation and generally in informal settlement negotiations. Do not leave it to chance that you will be capable of performing these tasks yourself. Your children, your work, your family life, and other responsibilities will still take up your time and resources during your family law case. An attorney has their eye out for you from beginning to end.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week at our three Houston area office locations, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can help you learn more about the world of family law and also about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.